How to Keep Birds Safe From Feral Cats

Depending on the estimate, the United States is home to between 30 million to 80 million stray and feral cats.

Ecologists like Peter Marra consider outdoor cats to be the main cause of bird deaths driven by humans. And the Smithsonian notes that they’ve caused 33 extinctions worldwide.

Here’s how you can help keep birds safe from stray and feral cats.

1. Don’t feed the cats.

According to Marra, stray and feral cats kill three times more birds than pet cats. While not technically feral because they interact with humans, stray cats sometimes get food from people, allowing their numbers to grow.

Report these cats to a shelter, rather than enabling them to kill more birds.

2. Support trap-neuter-release programs with awareness.

By themselves, programs that trap feral cats and neuter them so they can’t reproduce are not a panacea.

However, trap-neuter-release programs can help get populations under control in a humane way. 

3. Try a cat bib — or collar.

Susan Willson, a tropical avian ecologist and conservation biologist, estimates that feral cats do 70 percent of the hunting of wild birds. And her 2013 study found that when wearing one colorful collar, called BirdsBeSafe, cats killed 3.4 times fewer birds on average.

Willson tells Audubon that she hopes people who work with feral cat colonies will give the collar a try.

4. Try a cat repellant in your yard.

Some protect the birds flocking to their feeders by trying a form of cat repellant.

The Nest recommends scattering citrus peels in your yard or planting a species that cats don’t seem to like, like coleus canina. You can also top your fence with chicken wire — angled out — which makes it harder for cats to climb into your yard. 

5. Consider using a humane trap to take feral cats to a shelter.

Be gentle if you catch a cat, and check your traps often.

Humane traps are a much better — and more ethical — alternative to poison. And harming feral cats is illegal in many areas.

6. Cut down on hiding places near bird feeders and baths.

Plant thorny bushes surrounding areas that birds frequent. Keep feeders and baths at least five feet away from shrubbery, and install bird houses at least eight feet off the ground.

And these are a few more ideas to make your yard and garden bird friendly.

7. Support animal shelters, stray and feral cat programs and national bird groups.

Whether through fostering animals or donating money or resources, you can help these groups trying to protect birds and cats.

As pet columnist Steve Dale writes on Petcha, all organizations must work together to help control feral cat populations.

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

76 comments

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla6 days ago

Oh poor kittens, I would not consider stop feeding them. The only long-term solution is spay/neuter but that is not always the case. So many cats out there having kitties is still common. I don't see this in your article (you can put this on your cat, I guess not on feral ones): https://www.birdsbesafe.com/

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Clare O
Clare O16 days ago

th

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE21 days ago

Thank you

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Glennis W
Glennis W27 days ago

Very informative. Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W27 days ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W27 days ago

Interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Nicole H

Topping your fence with chicken wire is not always helpful. Where I lived before, my neighbor really hated cats, because they came in her garden ( I must admit she had a very beautiful one with plenty of flowers, so it was colorful from spring till late fall). She was so fed up that she had glued small pieces of glass on her concrete wall, separating the gardens (something that was done by nearly all my neighbors) and one day, I was taking care of my plants in the kitchen and I saw a cat very slowly, and very carefully walking between the pieces of glass until she reached the end, and could jump on her terrace. And from there .... hup in the garden. I could not help laughing because this cat was so clever, and luckily my neighbor did not see me....

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Clare O'Beara
Clare Oabout a month ago

I feed birds on top of the flat roofed shed so they can see around them.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare Oabout a month ago

Bird houses at least eight feet off the ground? Many people would not be able to reach that.

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Marija M
Marija Mabout a month ago

tks for sharing.

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